Former graduates of DEDI’s different projects return to the Initiative to preserve their connections and the spirit of dialogue. The Alumni Club offers a rare space for honest discussions and acceptance of differences.
By Rasmus Boegeskov Larsen
Are the old principles of Danish Folk High Schools still relevant in 2021? Could such schools be founded in Egypt today, and how might they need to be adapted to Egyptian society? These were some of the questions up for discussion at one of the recent meetings of the DEDI Alumni Club.
The participants were introduced to the history of the Folk High Schools and the ideas behind lifelong learning. They also got to hear the personal story of how DEDI’s current communication intern, Isabel Bjerrum Møller, experienced her stay at a folk high school.
The session sparked a lot of interest from the participants, who all work in the field of civic education, adult education and lifelong learning.
“I really like the idea that the students themselves are responsible for the school. They live there, and they clean the place, and cook their own food. They will leave not just with skills and knowledge, but also with good values”, said Zello Samy, a volunteer with the Initiative for Peaceful Coexistence in Luxor, and a graduate of DEDI’s Ambassadors for Dialogue program. She had come all the way from Luxor to take part in the Alumni Club.
Danish Folk High Schools in Egypt?
Many of the participants thought the Danish principles could be very useful in Egypt, but that the structure of the school would have to be tweaked to fit Egyptian society. Both financially and socially it would be difficult for many Egyptians to join a folk high school of the Danish kind.
“During the whole session I was thinking, how can we do something similar here in Egypt, and how could DEDI support us in that”, said Basma el-Marakby, another ambassador for dialogue.
Her suggestion was to make a sort of camp that would be shorter and less expensive for the students.
“We could make a two-week camp somewhere in the desert far from everything. It could be run by the ambassadors for dialogue and be an intensive course in learning the culture of dialogue and how to settle conflicts in society”, she explained.
From knowledge to practice
Another of the recent DAC meetings revolved around gender responsive project management. It included a training session conducted by Doaa Abdel Aal from Al-Moltaqa for development on gender approaches to Project management, and how to do community work while taking inyo consideration gender dynamics and norms.
For one of the alumni, Aya Gamal, this was something she could apply directly in her work. However not with the aim to have more women in her team
“I work as a location manager at a petroleum company, and I know that I have a bias. I almost only hire women. There are some specific reasons for that such as that women stay longer in their position, whereas men tend to leave their position quickly and seek another job. We have tried to analyze the reasons why, but not very deeply.”
The session helped Aya to think of new ways to analyze this issue. “I think I am more ready now to work on finding ways to deal with it, so I can hire more men”, she explained.
Similarly, Mahmoud Asal who works as trainer with the government found that he could apply the knowledge.
“I need to be better at finding a common ground that I can begin from. Because if I begin from the point of difference, there will be a gap between us from the start”, said Mahmoud Asal.
He had previously taken part in a gender project with DEDI and is glad that his relationship with DEDI didn’t end there.
“I love to come here to discuss and hear the opinions of others. DEDI always creates a great space for this, and this is something that is hard to find anywhere else”, he said.
DEDI Alumni Club is a haven for new learning opportunities
DEDI Alumni Club (DAC) is a network that connects those who have graduated from different DEDI projects. DAC aims at guiding DEDI’s alumni to a pool of new opportunities, experiences and knowledge.
“The aim of the club is to capitalize on DEDI’s successful projects by keeping the alumni mobilized, engaged and connected to DEDI and the Danish culture. DAC maintains and expands DEDI’s outreach to hundreds of young men and women from all Egyptian governorates and connects them in one dynamic, resourceful network”, explained Menan Farag, Senior Project Officer at DEDI.
DAC provides DEDI alumni with unique learning opportunities around three main focus themes; Gender, Sustainability and Edutainment. It offers the alumni knowledge sessions, inspirational talks, networking opportunities, gatherings and social events, peer-to-peer learning channels, and it exposes them to relevant activities in Denmark.
“There is a lack in Egypt of open learning platforms that provide a space for peer-to-peer learning and cultural exchange. The Alumni Club provides this”, said Menan Farag.
DEDI is launching October’s series of DAC’s meetings tomorrow. The series include four meetings at DEDI premises in Cairo every Tuesday. The alumni club began this year, but most activities had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The plan is to now have four activities every three months.